Illicit Drug use Continues to Increase

clip_image002[2] (59 x 72)Talbot Partnership for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Prevention reports that an estimated 22.5 million Americans aged 12 or older—or 8.7 percent of the population—had used an illicit drug or abused a psychotherapeutic medication (such as a pain reliever, stimulant, or tranquilizer) in the past month, according to a report by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. This is up from 8.3 percent in 2002. According to the report, the increase mostly reflects a recent rise in the use of marijuana, the most commonly used illicit drug.

Marijuana use has increased since 2007. In 2011, there were 18.1 million current (past-month) users—about 7.0 percent of people aged 12 or older—up from 14.4 million (5.8 percent) in 2007. Cocaine use has gone down in the last few years; from 2006 to 2011, the number of current users aged 12 or older dropped from 2.4 million to 1.4 million. Prescription drug use and more recently, heroin, however have increased.

The primary reason for the growth in heroin use is the increase in the number of people who have switched from abusing prescription drugs to heroin. Adults and teenagers who became addicted to prescription drugs are now buying heroin from drug dealers.

In Talbot County, statistics from the Talbot Health Department show that alcohol abuse continues to be the primary reason for treatment for our adults, however 50% or more of those treated use 2 or more drugs and 30% use 3 or more. In our adult (18 and over) population, we are seeing an increase in heroin use, particularly intravenous use.

Talbot County has had 21 unintentional intoxication deaths in the time period from 2007 – 2012. Fourteen of these deaths were related to opoid use; 6 of them heroin. Our rates had declined in 2008 through 2011 but increased sharply in 2012.

Most people use drugs for the first time when they are teenagers. There were just over 3.0 million new users (initiates) of illicit drugs in 2011, or about 8,400 new users per day. Half (51 percent) were under 18. More than half of new illicit drug users begin with marijuana. Next most common are prescription pain relievers, followed by inhalants (which is most common among younger teens).

After alcohol, marijuana has the highest rate of dependence or abuse among all drugs. In 2011, 4.2 million Americans met clinical criteria for dependence or abuse of marijuana in the past year—more than twice the number for dependence/abuse of prescription pain relievers (1.8 million) and four times the number for dependence/abuse of cocaine (821,000).

For further information on illicit drugs, contact Talbot Partnership at 410-819-8067 or Please also visit our website at or find us on Facebook.